Food Tips

6 Foods You Think Are Vegan That Actually Aren’t

foods you thought were vegan

You’ve probably already figured out that OJ with omega-3s could mean fish oil and that most marshmallows are made with gelatin. But those aren’t the only hidden sources of animal products out there. We combed the shelves—and the produce aisle—and discovered some doozies. Get ready to be grossed out. (Snack AND lose weight with this box ofPrevention-approved treats from Bestowed.)

Worcestershire sauce
Worcestershire sauce

It’s not just the name that’s tough to swallow, the quirky condiment that adds pizzazz to Bloody Mary’s and marinades, but otherwise just hangs out on the door of your fridge, is made of vinegar, molasses, sugar, onions, spices, and anchovies (eek!). Fermented fish is what gives Lee & Perrins that umami taste.

What’s a vegan to do? Annie’s Homegrown Organic Vegan Worcestershire Sauce leaves out the anchovies but delivers the same zing.

Breakfast cereals
Breakfast cereals

Lucky Charms aren’t so magically delicious. Even if you top your favorite kid cruncher with almond milk, you could be getting a side of animal bone with your breakfast. That’s because some popular picks (cough, Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats and Lucky Charms) contain gelatin, a binding agent extracted from the skin, bones, and connective tissue of cows and pigs.

What’s a vegan to do? Of course, there are loads of vegan cereals on the market (Rice Krispies, Cap’n Crunch, Reese’s Puffs, Corn Pops, Kashi GoLean Crunch, Barbara’s Bakery Puffins)—just be sure gelatin isn’t listed in the ingredients.

Red candy
Red candy

Vegan nerds should pass on Nerds. The crunchy candy contains Natural Red #4, a bright red food colorant made from crushed up cochineal bugs that gives the candy its “natural” crimson color. Skip the Cinnamon Mentos, too, and know the “natural” crimson color can sneak into salad dressings, popsicles, and chewing gum. (Here are 6 gross side effects of chewing gum.)

What’s a vegan to do? Not every red-colored candy contains it, but check the ingredient list for aliases (“carmine,” “carminic acid,” “cochineal,” or “cochineal extract”) just in case.

white sugar
White sugar

Turns out sugar ain’t so sweet. The refined white stuff is often bleached by filtering it through “bone char,” or charred cattle bones, which strips color and impurities out of the granules. And don’t be fooled by brown sugar, which is often just refined white sugar with molasses added.

What’s a vegan to do? Unfortunately, bone char isn’t listed on ingredients, but USDA organic sugar can’t be filtered through bone char. Other safe bets: Pure cane sugar, raw turbinado sugar, date and coconut sugar.


That beer you’re chugging could be made with fish bladders. Granted, Guinness sold in the US is going vegan starting at the end of 2016, but the centuries-old stout isn’t the only beer traditionally clarified with isinglass, a gelatin-like substance made with the bladders of freshwater fish: Harp, Smithwick’s, and Newcastle Brown Ale do it too.

What’s a vegan to do? Beer without fish bladders is more common than not, even with imports. German and Belgium brews follow “purity laws” that don’t allow animal products. For a full vegan beer directory, check here.


Bananas are a vegan dream—they can be blended into ice cream and baked into muffins—there’s only one problem: Your banana may not be vegan anymore. Scientists have discovered that chitosan, a spray-on pesticide made from shrimp and crab shells, keeps the potassium-packed fruit from ripening too quickly and turning mushy.

What’s a vegan to do? To skip the exoskeleton, opt for organic bananas. (When buying produce always go organic for these 6 foods.)

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